If you’ve been along to the blog by now, you’ll probably know that I have a full-time day job that I do in addition to my writing, because I simply can’t afford to stay at home all day. I wish.
When I was first starting out, I would read all these respected authors and their blogs would all say, “Write Every Day.” This has been a mantra that has been repeated so many times that it’s almost a cliche’ by now. I would look at how many pages these authors said they would turn out, how many words per day, and how many sheer books they had under their belts, and think to myself, These authors write for a living. If I want to be an author I need to put in as much time at it as I would if I were making my living from it, or it means I’m not that serious.
The fact of the matter is, you might be able to maintain two 40 hour jobs per week, at least for a little while, but that level of intense output can’t be sustained for very long without a complete burnout. Even knowing this logically, I still often found myself disappointed that I wasn’t doing more, and that I wasn’t keeping pace with the legends of fiction writing.
I would always try my best to schedule in writing time, and be serious about trying to protect it, but somehow life just always seemed to get in the way. So many times I’ve tried to schedule in my writing time. I mean, how many times have you heard yourself say, “I’ll have all the time this weekend to get it done.” But when the weekend comes?
I had to learn a hard lesson, that writing time is impossible to schedule into your day. Dedicated writing time just doesn’t exist for me. I’ve talked about this before, but I’ll say it again.
Finding balance is the key to avoid burnout.
As an author who’s not yet making a living with your writing career, you have to find new and interesting ways to write, and learn to see any few minutes as time to write. I have done this in so many little ways.
I’ve put my phone or tablet in a plastic bag so I can still write while in the shower, or better yet, while taking a bath. I am endlessly downloading writing and productivity-related apps on said phone or tablet.
I am always crunching words during any few minutes of downtime. On the commute to or from work, you can dictate to your phone or any recording device. When your partner leaves the table to use the restroom at a bar or restaurant? Yep. I’ve done that one before too. You can even find me writing during Game of Thrones commercial breaks. And don’t look at me like that. Ain’t nobody gonna miss an episode of Thrones for anything.
Learn to see every little bit of downtime as potential to get a few more words in.
I’m going to be totally real with you here. When your passion is your ‘second job’ your hygiene is totally optional, especially on the weekends. Additionally, you can always tell how well the writing is going by looking at the state of a writer’s home.
When my house is super clean, I can almost guarantee that the writing is going badly. Usually, it means I am stuck, and nothing is happening. Housework is a great motivator because folding 6 loads of laundry instead of doing your writing really sucks. It is also good, mindless work that you can use as the time that you clearly need in order to work out your story.
On the other hand, when my house, my desk, or my hair is super messy, the writing is probably going awesome. Words are flowing, I’m really inspired, and the house is a disaster because I’m doing what I honestly love to do, and have no time for anything else.
Trust me, you’ll have ups, and you’ll have downs. You just have to go with them.
Your level of organization becomes immensely important. Clutter is the bane of your existence. The whole point of trying to make a legitimate thing out of your writing career when you have another job paying the bills is that you really have no time to figure out where you put something when you only have a few minutes in between school and soccer practice to write.
Your office needs to be cleaned and decluttered as often as possible, or it’s way too stressful to work in. Your computer files need to be well maintained, and files need to be put in the right folders, and often.
You need to know exactly where your research, character profiles, outline, and the current version of your work in progress is at all times, because if you don’t, you will end up wasting any time you have looking for it instead of getting words onto the page.
Finally, let this be your reminder to backup and save everything all the time.
How do you balance your day job with your writing?
Let me know in the comments below!